Honey Money: Teaching Children the Value of Money

January 10, 2013

At the start of 2013, we decided that one of the major themes we plan to emphasize this year is helping our children learn the value of money. As part owners in our honey business, our three children have contributed to Bee America’s success in a variety of ways: monitoring the beehives, placing labels on honey jars, preparing orders for shipping, etc. While they do have savings accounts where birthday checks and chore money get deposited regularly (if grudgingly), we’d like for them to fully understand that this company helps to ensure our livelihood and if we all work hard together, it can grow and support their futures.

When thinking about how to discuss the value of money with elementary school-aged children, I realized that I would first need to confront the stereotype that seems to be pervasive in our society—people with money are better than people without money. Our children are not immune to it and have seen countless examples of this false paradigm in the media—some too subtle for them to comment on, but others more obvious such as TV shows featuring children with ready access to expensive toys and electronics. Their reactions are probably fairly typical: complaining that we don’t have an Xbox 360 or remarking, with awe in their voices, that the TV family with the backyard swimming pool must be very rich.

One of the subtleties that is lost on them is that these TV shows feature young actors who are attractive, charismatic and seemingly successful—despite any “drama” they experience in 30 minutes (counting commercials). I believe that the unfortunate message they receive is that good-looking people with enviable material possessions = popular, powerful people. Contrast this image with the person they saw standing at the stoplight on the way home from the store the other day, holding a hand-lettered sign asking for help. This person who was out in the cold was clearly not dressed appropriately for the weather, looked sad and careworn, and approached car windows to receive spare change and once in a while, some paper money. While at the time, I was able to have a meaningful discussion about homelessness and the importance of charity to others, I now regret I didn’t raise the issue of an individual’s self-worth—stressing that it shouldn’t be defined by one’s circumstances.

I’ve since revisited this critical issue with our children by asking, “Do you think kids at school like you for who you are or because they like your toys or going on outings with you?” While all three of them said that of course their friends liked them for who they are, it opened the door to a more thoughtful discussion about self-worth. I explained that feeling good only about material things would make them constantly wanting the “next best thing”.  However, if they feel good about themselves because of who they are and what they accomplish, they will ultimately be happier people.

I believe it is important for our children to understand that earning a living through Bee America will be accomplished by all of our hard work. As a parent, I wish to convey to our children the respect I have for what we do and for their contributions to the company. Additionally, I want them to value what they have and treat their possessions responsibly. As a parent, I also desire that our children understand that everything we now have in our lives is because we worked hard for it. And learning this essential life lesson is underscored by appreciating the value of money.

One of the reasons we created Bee America was to provide our children with hands-on experience in running a family business and to feel part of the company from the very beginning by being given age-appropriate responsibilities. We haven’t shielded them from the challenges we faced, because we believe that our successes have been more meaningful for the collective effort we put forth in overcoming them. We look forward to helping our company and children continue to grow in amazing ways in 2013.